Show Discussion: Quizmaster

By | December 29, 2019

Sunday, 6pm,

Jeremy Vine hosts as fifteen of the most successful TV quizzers in the country battle it out to see who is the quizziest of them all in a format which isn’t just 15-to-1 but does feature our contestants being whittled down to one winner across 90 minutes.

Quizmaster, a 90-minute peak time special, sees 15 previous contestants on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Mastermind, The Chase, Fifteen to One and University Challenge compete in a high-stakes battle to become ultimate quiz champion.

My guess is ITV have rather overstated the stakes here rather given that there appears to be no real prize (just as it ever was in Serious Quiz Land, I suppose). It is possibly worth pointing out that this sort of thing has been tried before and not really worked out, so we’ll see if this bucks the trend – it might be something that would benefit from some US style glitz and glamour. Let’s see! Let us know what you think in the comments.

28 thoughts on “Show Discussion: Quizmaster

  1. John R

    Here are the hopefuls :-

    Eric Monkman (UC)
    Bobby Seagull (UC)
    Shaun Williamson (BARRY!)
    Isabelle Heward (MM)
    Pat Gibson (WWTBAM)
    John Robinson (Clarkson WWTBAM)
    David Edwards (WWTBAM)
    Freddy Leo (UC)
    Ailsa Watson (15-1)
    Olav Bjortont (The National Lottery People’s Quiz)
    Gareth Kingston (15-1)
    Susan Price Williams (Chase)
    Terry Pret (Chase)
    Diane Howe (Chase)
    Kevin Ashman (Pretty much every quiz show going)

  2. Andrew Sullivan

    Now that it’s been broadcast, I can reveal some bits from my time watching the recording. I was also there to do a run-through of the game beforehand so Jeremy could practice his lines and everything ran smoothly for the transitions for each round. We were there for a LONG time! The recording must have started at around 5:30-6pm that evening and we didn’t get out until MIDNIGHT! They DID provide us all with a paper bag under everyone’s seats with a small carton of orange juice and a chocolate bar inside (if anyone’s interested, mine was a Bounty). As you might have guessed, there was a lot cut out, mainly dead air while the contestants deliberated over their answers, but other than that and the length of the recording, it was still a fun day out. If you ask me, I think a few of the contestant selections, namely the 15-to-1 and Chase people, weren’t the est choices, especially when you have professional quizzers like Pat and Kevin in the mix as well. It all felt a bit ‘David and Goliath-y’ to me.

    1. Brandon

      I remember this coming up in Stool Pigeon not long after the recording, what was the reason it took so long?

      1. Andrew Sullivan

        I think mainly it was because the first round took so long to get through, not that you’d know that from the editing in the actual show, and I would guess it was getting all the podiums out and set up on the subsequent rounds. There was also a lot of downtime between rounds with the warm-up guy playing games with us to keep us entertained.

    2. Brekkie

      Long, drawn out and dull, not helped by being hosted by one of the most annoying men in broadcasting . And have to question the fairness of a quiz show that gives some audience members Kit Kat Chunkys and others a Bounty.

  3. Brig Bother Post author

    I thought that was alright actually, wouldn’t watch it regularly but probably would watch the occasional special, lands on the right side of the fun/po-faced quiz divide in quite an ITV way, and that probably saves it from its flaws. I think it did a pretty good job of humanising its contestants in a way that more serious shows can often fail at.

    I can’t help but think Round One, a fifteen-way buzzer individual shootout, is a bit too much of a crapshoot to have any huge amount of meaning to be honest, but I appreciated the pace of the questioning. People buzzing in after two or three words does make me wonder if there’s anything in a game based on answering questions Bid A Note style.

    The Danger List is probably the most flawed round – you can’t have everyone answering the same question as that would make for rather dull television. There *probably was* a better way to equalise the questions so one person wasn’t giving one-word country names and another lengthy film titles in quite a tight time limit. Also appreciate that it’s difficult to come up with lists that have the same amount of answers in each one – perhaps as part of the strategy it should give the amount of possible answers next to each category? That’d make it Something That Looks Like A Fair And Strategic Choice For Television Entertainment even if there’s a bit of legerdemain in there.

    Sabotage was OK. I quite enjoyed the Time Trial bit (Good music. And I quite liked how the Sabotage scores fed into it) – was there a deliberate reduction of the question difficulty after a certain amount of questions? It felt like it.

    The Final Round probably the weakest element for me. I liked the idea of question picking in THE QUIZMASTER VAULT (shades of iconic mid-2010s quiz podcast The Line Up), I’m not sure slowing the pace down to Eggheads levels (which had been pretty decent up to this point) and then having a round where your two best contestants get most of the questions wrong is a great advert. And the winner doesn’t even get a trophy or anything. After ninety minutes it basically ended with “you’ve won! Bye now!”

    Flaws notwithstanding, it held my attention for the full ninety pretty much and as someone who is more “game” than “hardcore quizzer” I’m not sure you could have asked for better. I thought there was a decent mix of low and highbrow questions, many of which were gettable but with some impressive knowledge still able to be shown. It would only have taken a few different production decisions to make it a difficult watch, but they’ve largely made the right ones so well done Spun Gold.

    1. Sue Allison

      Thanks so much Brig. Really appreciate all those comments and feedback. Your review is always the one I value most so phew! Sue

  4. Peter Scandrett

    I’ve not seen the broadcast show but I was also at the recording. The one takeaway for me from it was, as someone said above… it was looong; I only just got the last tram home. It sounds like it’s been edited into a snappyish show which it really needed to be; aside from any minor tech issues in the studio, there were lots of deliberations.

    TBH I would have got quite bored had I not sat next to Bobby Seagull’s friend and we got chatting about life, the universe and everything – which kept us ticking over and interested. Having been to a University Challenge recording at Granada (years ago now) and other radio recordings which seem to be pretty much run ‘to time’ I was surprised at how much slack there was in the production. I’ve worked in TV studios before so understand something of the way TV is constructed and the challenges encountered, but was still surprised that it ran over the estimated record time by so long.

    I know I’m visible on screen from the promo shots, which wasn’t something I was anticipating to be quite so much, so that’ll be quite unflattering and embarrassing. Nevertheless, I’ll try to watch it at some point – having been working over the festive season, there’s a lot of stuff to catch up on (and to be honest, for me, ITV stuff tends to go to the bottom of the pile as iplayer is so much better – no adverts!)

    Glad it seems to have come out quite well though, it seems. I was chuffed to get one of the ‘final difficult’ questions right on the night that the contestants didn’t…

    PS My chocolate was a Kit Kat Chunky, IIRC.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      It always surprises when you hear it took 4+ hours to record a quiz – especially so after hearing it took 6+, most of the content is verbal after all so God knows what they’re up to. I presume they had to check all the lists, but everything else was pretty standard Q and A. I suppose pilots (or at least first goes) will take a bit longer (and I’ve been to plenty of pilots that have taken for-bloody-ever).

      Yes – it sounds like an impressive edit then, I thought it was pretty pacey for the most part – you certainly wouldn’t have guessed it was such a mammoth record. There were (not unfair) comments that it took over ten minutes to get into the quiz, but I didn’t think it too unreasonable to big up their collective achievements for a tournament such as this.

  5. Oliver

    I liked the concept but wasn’t a massive fan of the execution.

    The first buzzer round was both too manic and too long. Too many contestants jumping in on each other too early to be fun. The edit was pacey but far from seamless.

    The second round simply felt unfair. Standard quiz questions (US presidents, countries in Africa, elements), notably tougher standard quiz questions (US state capitals), an eminently guessable category (Premier League teams), and one tough category with long answers (Agatha Christie novels). Unsurprisingly, the two people with the toughest categories went out.

    The final two rounds were fun, and I did enjoy that, due to the way the final round worked, plenty of viewers will have known more answers than the contestants

    In the end it was fine when it could have been great.

    My hope, if it was to come back, is that the first round gets reworked and the show has fewer contestants (whether via heats, a series with weekly eliminations or simply cutting it down to 10 rather than 15). I’d also hope they drop the silly show vs show angle to focus more on contestant achievements- felt a bit like cynical ITV cross-promotion (including University Challenge made by them), especially as having Chase winners seemed particularly out of place.

  6. Alex McMillan

    Really enjoyed this, it towed the line well between glitzy event TV and high-end quiz, but I agree it was a shame to see so many people fall in round 1 (although it does feel like somewhat of a necessary evil). Hoping it sticks around and becomes a cerebral equivalent to the Christmas staple of “World’s Strongest Man”, I’d like to see some more show’s make the cut going forward, Only Connect and Krypton Factor seem like shoe-ins.

  7. Brig Bother Post author

    2.6m apparently (against the mighty Repair Shop which did 5m).

    Deserved a bit more than that, would probably give another go.

  8. Will Stephen

    Like everyone else has said, the flaws on the list round definitely put me off. One thing to do US states (being similar difficulty to African countries imo) but state capitals makes the difficulty in a fast pace environment so much harder. Same with Tom cruise films not something you would instantly know without working it out methodically.

    Pacing felt not too bad and I will watch it again, just a few tweaks to make it work. May do better as several heats to a grand final.

  9. JoshieF

    The show is a VERY solid piece of entertainment. The format makes for good TV viewing, despite multiple elements of it really putting the show’s claim of “finding the best TV quizzer” into question.

    The endgame ultimately being all about knowing what your opponent doesn’t know, instead of what you know yourself, is the only change I’d like to see. Other than that, I’m hoping to see this show be an event that occurs at least once a year.

  10. Chris M. Dickson

    Quite enjoyed this; I suspect it may scrape into my top five for the year, though rather less to my taste than the top two. They should do a series, but only in the sense that the Eurovision Song Contest Final is a series that has one episode per year. (There may be a better analogy than that.)

    We joke about The Crystal Maze having less gameplay to spend more time on the contestants’ personalities, but I’m glad that this did spend a little time on the contestants’ personalities, and the balance was probably about right. They came across as likable to me, though I’m a soft target for this sort of thing. The line-up (not The Line Up) was pretty good; I thought Shaun Williamson was a left-field choice – I still think of him more as 24 Hour Quiz host than anything else – but he more than justified his selection. (When I saw the original fifteen, my fancied slight-outsider was Olav Bjortomt, and it would have been interesting to see how far he could have gone.)

    Most of the reason I liked it was an adequate variety of quiz games, all simple but not trivial. I liked The Danger List more as a spectacle than as a game, though the fact that all the contestants were offered a choice of three topics does somewhat excuse the disparity in difficulty in subject matter, at least to the extent that you could see the list coming to some extent. The Sabotage concept was quite funny, and I sort of liked the “pick the questions that your opponent faces” element, other than the fact that you’d probably want to see your winning contestant do something more heroic and near-perfect than win by 2/5 – 1/5.

    It feels a tad awry that the contestants tended to come from the higher-brow end of the spectrum and struggle more with the lower-brow end, when the show had been formulated that it could have worked the other way; I guess that’s why you could put The Chase winners in, who might be both appropriately fast and skew towards the lower-brow end. I guess that more people can enjoy getting grand final questions that the finalists missed this way than if the grand final had been all esoterica… and it was the contestants’ choices that led it to be that way, rather than anything else. (Might be worth trying to ensure that the winners have to excel at both high and low culture, somehow, rather than win 2-1.)

    The real open question is how well the Chasers themselves would have done in the competition! If the Eggheads can get to play – admittedly not under that brand, though with the appropriate recognition – then perhaps we might get to see the Chasers vs. Eggheads clash that we want to see. (If Eggheads does fade away, might that make it more likely?) The Chasers have always, very wisely, demurred about the different skills tested by different quiz formats when asked to compare themselves to the ‘heads; I’d have thought the degree of emphasis on speed in several of the rounds here would’ve served them well.

    Which is better? There’s only one way to find out!

    1. Alex McMillan

      This is a shame, but hopefully this means Channel 4 will throw us a few new quizzes. I remember Mental Samurai coming up in a Stool Pigeon a while back.

  11. Henry R

    Considering the cost of mental samurai, I can’t see C4 taking the risk.

    Do they even have a quiz these days? Maybe they’ll buy one since that seems to be their mantra of late.

  12. Des Elmes

    So the Drop has been dropped again – and Fifteen-to-One Mark Two has gone too.

    Meaning that, for the time being, Countdown is C4’s only afternoon game show (if, of course, you don’t count Come Dine With Me and the like as proper game shows…).

    I think one has to go back to 2005 for the last time this was the case, in between the end of the original FTO and the start of DOND. In the first half of 2004, FTO’s slot was taken up by Beat the Nation – and after that I don’t think there was anything until Back in the Day, which began in May 2005 and ended just as Noel and his boxes were about to arrive on the airwaves.

    When DOND finally ended, FTO Mk II had already been going for the best part of three years (not counting its primetime specials). There was then just over a year before it was joined by the rechristened £100k Drop.

    And the last time before 2004/5 that Countdown was the only game on C4 afternoons? Well, you have to go back to at least 1987…

    1. John R

      I was in the audience for both Million Pound Drop and £100K Drop! To be honest it lost most of the appeal when it went from being live to pre recorded and all the stupid format changes with ‘relay teams’ and ‘gamble questions’ (£1M version) but I thought the £100K drop was doing steady figures for C4 so slightly surprising, it was probably as cheap as chips to make too!

      Poor Davina, how 5MTAF never got a second series either is beyond me…

    2. David B

      For context, there is a new Daytime Commissioner at C4 and she is on record that she prefers new formats to remakes, so this situation may be temporary.

  13. Greg

    Well I have to say I really enjoyed it. The rounds and questions varied enough so we could all play along sitting in my parents house with 8 year olds up to 60 year olds and beyond. I liked the fast paced nature. I often find myself not enjoying new quiz formats because I am not family with the show or the contents. However I found that because I knew a lot of the contestants from other shows it helped me to get a bit more enjoyment knowing where they may excel or some unstuck. Still think they missed a trick not giving Monkman Coronation Street in round 3. I would absolutely watch this again. My family who are not avid quiz fans all really enjoyed it too. My dad said when’s the next one and his response to it’s just a one off was oh that’s a shame.

  14. Charm

    I unfortunately missed this and cant seem to find it on catch up and suggestions please, thank you in adavance

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I’m afraid you’re probably out of luck now 28 days have passed, hopefully it will get a repeat sometime.


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